A Bearded Visitor

On Thursday 24th March, Christopher Ritch noticed an unusual visitor hanging around theĀ pierĀ and marina in Baltasound. It was a Bearded Seal (Erignathus barbatus), the first that has ever been seen on Unst. The species breeds in the Arctic and is a very rare visitor to Britain, with 12 previous Shetland records (although, curiously, the last three have all been at Mid Yell). Unlike most seals, this is not a fish-eater, it feeds on shellfish. It gets its name from the extravagant whiskers, which are more like a big droopy moustache than a beard; if the seal is out of water for a long time the whiskers curl up as they dry out.

Bearded Seal
Bearded Seal

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